Drug Law

Oakland Suspends “Mega-Grow” Medical Marijuana Farm Plan

| by NORML

By "Radical" Russ Belville

(Bay Area Citizen) Under fire from the U.S. Department of Justice over its marijuana cultivation plans, the Oakland City Council voted just a moment ago to suspend the process for permitting four enormous marijuana-growing operations.

Oakland City Attorney John Russo had warned the City Council repeatedly that federal law enforcement officials were skeptical of the city’s plans because they appeared to be in violation of state and federal laws.

It is no surprise that it is against federal law to create mega-grow indoor pot factories that produce 58 pounds a day. But Oakland had been moving forward because of the Holder Memo that said the feds wouldn’t spend time and resources on medical marijuana providers operating in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law. The problem is that the mega-grows may not be legal under California state law and rumor has it the feds already have the operation planned to take these factories down the minute they open.

(Bay Area Citizen) Oakland City Attorney John Russo sent a memo to the Oakland City Council last week warning that federal officials have concerns about the city’s plans for giant pot farms, according to multiple City Hall sources.

It came after Russo’s meeting with federal officials, the details of which were reported by California Watch yesterday. Quoting two unnamed sources, California Watch reported that federal officials met with the Oakland city attorney last month to voice their concerns about an ordinance that would permit four enormous medical pot farms in Oakland.

But the pot farms have raised new concerns. Some legal observers, including [NORML Board member] Bill Panzer, a lawyer who wrote the state’s seminal medical marijuana law, have said that the pot farms don’t comply with the state law that requires medical pot operations to be not-for-profit collectives of patients and caregivers.

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials contacted the city to find out about the ordinance over the summer. DEA spokesman Rusty Payne told The Bay Citizen at the time: “I will say this: We are certainly going to be very, very interested in any large-scale marijuana cultivation that’s going on.”

It seems that the feds would much rather have thousands of small grow operations supplying the California dispensary market than four super-grows. It is not the size of the grow operation that frightens the feds; it is the establishment of a strong industry with lobbying power and steady tax revenues to large California cities.